Let there be light at Christmas

Waterford Rise, Pakenham. 380302_07 Picture: MATT MALE

Erle Levey

Christmas lights … let’s think about the concept.

Why is Australia so big on them?

Most people, if you ask them, mention children when thinking about why they go to the effort of decorating their house with Christmas lights.

Of course, we want our kids to have the wonderland that we remember as a child at Christmas time. But what else lies beneath this Australian tradition?

And is it Australian or, like Halloween, has our culture been influenced by American culture when it comes to Christmas light displays?

When I asked one lights enthusiast how long he’d been working on setting up his display, he said they started about a month ago.

Wow! That’s a lot of time invested in decorating your house for a temporary amount of time – only to pack it all away again in a few weeks.

Imagine landscaping a garden for more than a month … and then after three weeks ripping it all out again.

What makes people do this?

It has to be psychological. A labour of love.

The passion has to come from within – an intrinsic motivation to want to provide an experience – or make something useful out of one’s home, that others can appreciate.

And not just the children.

Does it go back in time and a matter of testing one’s upper limits?

How many lights? How treacherous a position can I place myself in?

Then again, most genuinely want to bring great joy and happiness to their kids.

A colleague confided she did it for that purpose.

“We decorated our house so beautifully for several years … until Santa delivered new Beagle puppies and they ate all the wiring for the Christmas lights in one afternoon when we left them in the courtyard.

“The cost for replacement made us reflect about the on-going commitment.

“Nope. More important things to spend money on … and the boys were growing up.

“Grinch-like thinking really.’’

And people with Christmas house light displays are the antithesis of The Grinch aren’t they?

They’re showing everyone that they are willing to invest hard-earned cash and many hours of their creative labour to make the world a better place for a few weeks.

Like an architect friend said on Saturday morning: “It’s so nice to focus on something positive for a change.’’

And that’s his motivation for wanting to decorate his place.

He said that, especially over the past few years, people need this.

We all need something enjoyable and uplifting to experience.

I love the mums and dads that really have done it for their kids though.

One couple with a two-year old was immersed in his experience.

They even brought his dinner outside so they could sit among the fairy lights and get on with life amid the magic. And they were working on the lights.

There was another whose wife was away with work, and he told me they set up the display together.

They have been decorating for six to seven years and renewing items over the time, upgrading and developing themes. All the while they have been doing it for the children and others in the street.

So it’s also a bonding experience – creating something rewarding and beautiful with your partner or family.

Although I did laugh when we asked one dad if the kids helped.

He laughed and said ’’they try to.’’

Maybe one of the children will become a sparky in the future.

Imagine that – passionate parents inspiring their kids with a career in either design, architecture, electrical ingenuity or theatre and movie set construction, all through building the Christmas light display year after year.